Crawdads on the Prowl – Walnut Creek to Open 2023 Season
by Justin De Haas
DANVILLE, Ca – The Walnut Creek Crawdads arguably had their best season in team history last summer and bring back some familiar faces in the lineup with some new names on the pitching staff.
The Crawdads clinched a birth into the California Collegiate League Playoffs last season by finishing third in the CCL North Division with a 25-21 record, which was the first time since 2014 that Walnut Creek had a winning record and playoff appearance.
Walnut Creek will be without St. Mary’s junior outfielder Coleman Schmidt and Cal Poly infielder Taison Corio from last year’s crew. Schmidt’s loss is especially notable as he led the Crawdads with 10 home runs and 39 RBI last summer. These are some big losses, but theCrawdads may have found a couple experienced replacements from some smaller schools in Texas.
Texas Arlington senior outfielder Tyson Pointer compiled a .303 batting average with 10 home runs and 51 RBI in 221 at-bats for the Mavericks. Another batter from the Lone Star State with consistent hitting and power is Texas San Antonio sophomore infielder Matt King. The Roadrunner was on the 2022 Conference USA All-Freshman Team and had a .318 batting average with 6 home runs and 58 RBI in 217 at-bats during the 2023 season.
Despite some of the departures, the Crawdads return some key pieces from last year’s successful season. Saint Mary’s junior utility Ryan Ellis was the Swiss Army knife of last summer’s squad by playing every position while leading the Crawdads with 58 hits and 20 stolen bases. Texas Tech junior first baseman and outfielder Ryan Brome also returns after hitting a team-high .363 batting average and .486 on-base percentage for Walnut Creek last season.
The lineup has may have some continuity from last year, but that is not necessarily the case for the pitching staff. Sonoma State junior right handed pitcher Nate Nordell is the only returner with a 3.52 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 23 innings pitched for the Crawdads last summer.
Some of the new pitching additions come from elite baseball schools that will participate in regionals for the NCAA Baseball Tournament and will come to Walnut Creek after their college season concludes. One of these future arrivals is South Carolina fifth year right handed pitcher Nick Proctor. The Gamecock has plenty experience in the CCL spending the last two years as the closer of the Santa Barbara Foresters accumulating 64 strikeouts and 10 saves while only
allowing one earned run in 34.1 innings pitched.
San Jose State may not be hosting a regional like South Carolina, but the Spartans will be playing in the Palo Alto regional after winning the Mountain West Conference baseball tournament thanks in part to redshirt junior left handed pitcher Micky Thompson. The southpaw finished on the All-Mountain West Second Team with a 4.52 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 77.2 innings pitched.
Nebraska junior right handed pitcher Corbin Hawkins was expecting to join the Crawdads this summer, but he recently pulled out to take the summer off. The Cornhusker was expected to produce as a trusted relief pitcher, but the Crawdads have other options with Arkansas sophomore left handed pitcher Sean Fitzpatrick and Oregon sophomore right handed pitcher Dylan McShane considered to be potential high-leverage arms in the bullpen.
Walnut Creek created a lot of hype last summer with its best season in recent years and hope to carry that momentum over to this season. The Crawdads will be playing their games at Monte Vista High School in Danville again this year with their first game of the season against the Alameda Anchors in the home opener on June 4.